Winston completes its move south to achieve a competitive advantage
Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, September 1, 2009
Winston furniture will introduce four multi-step finishes and better value pricing now that parent company Brown Jordan International has completed its move of Winston's production to Mexico. Other than those improvements, dealers should notice little change in the manufacturer long known for its dependable products and quick shipments.
"We're preparing for the best product presentation that Winston has ever had," CEO Gene Moriarty said. "It certainly hasn't been a spur-of-the-moment move. We've had this planned for quite some time — well before the economic situations hit. This was always part of our plan to have Juarez fully capable. We did not move our timetable any faster because of the economic situation. This was just the time we were ready and felt comfortable that we would have the same level of service, quality and performance that our customers had realized with Winston for 35-plus years."
Movement toward BJI's long-term strategy for Winston dates prior to August 2007, when it acquired the Kessler factory in Juarez, Mexico. The former Kessler facility included a cast aluminum foundry along with a factory that made tabletops, extruded aluminum furniture and wood furniture.
BJI immediately began upgrading the facility. During the fourth quarter of 2007, it was manufacturing extruded aluminum frames and cast aluminum tabletops in Mexico but shipping frames for Winston's retail lines to its Haleyville, Ala., plant for finishing and cushions.
Over the past two years, BJI expanded the Juarez facility by about 70,000-square-feet, increasing its footprint to nearly 200,000 square feet. In addition to providing more storage space for raw materials, the expansion included investments in new equipment such as high-capacity ovens, high-speed paint lines, welding booths and conveyors.
The company created new tooling to allow capabilities in both facilities. New software and control systems were installed to allow linkage with BJI's other businesses.
"We've got as good a system as you can have there for production planning, inventory control and purchasing of materials," Moriarty said. "The key people who were at Winston are still part of this operation. They've been down there working feverishly for the last 18 months in training and bringing their knowledge to the people on the floor."
Rather than continuing to buy cast aluminum tabletops and components from China, BJI is producing them all in Juarez. "It allowed us to improve the quality of our product substantially, improve design and pass on some savings in price reductions to our customers," Moriarty said.
Starting last year, approximately 350 employees in Mexico were producing Winston's contract furniture lines as well as the frames for retail. This year, Winston began shipping from Mexico direct to its contract customers.
"The next piece was to complete the process by finishing the frames for Winston retail, and to complete the cushioning for Winston retail cut-and-sew," Moriarty said. "We have been working on the finishing and cut-and-sew, so when the season started we'd be completely ready from a go-to-market standpoint to ship out of there."
What precipitated the move was similar to what prompted BJI's moving production of Brown Jordan furniture lines from California to Mexico, Moriarty said. "We had been building frames for Brown Jordan down there for 20 years, and all we did was move the rest of its production there. That's improved our quality and our lead time. We've been running four weeks lead time for three seasons now, that's 98% on time and complete." Dealers may remember Brown Jordan's lead time averaged 12–14 weeks in 2005 and 2006.
Moriarty said both moves follow the strategy to have full control and the lowest cost manufacturing point. Although he noted BJI has made significant investments in the facility in Mexico, Moriarty has no plans to close or sell the plant in Haleyville, Ala.
"That facility and the equipment will stay company-owned," he said. "We will have a management team and support services in Alabama. Our lead operations guys, IT, credit, customer service will be there. Engineering will be both there and in Mexico, as will design. There will still be a Winston corporate face in Alabama. And the people that our customers have been dealing with will still be there.
"We see dual facilities as being a competitive advantage for us and our dealers when consumer spending levels begin to improve," Moriarty added.